Foodie hotspots: Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Fujieda, Atami, Kannami, Izu Hanto, Yui, Numazu, Shuzenji, Izu city, Fujinomiya, Shimada.
Foodies Look Out For: Unagi no Kabayaki eel dishes; unagi pie; ocha green tea; Shizuoka oden; sakura-ebi shrimp cuisine; fresh wasabi; tororojiru grated yam soup; local microbrew beer.
The Basics: You can be in parts of Shizuoka in less than an hour from Tokyo station on the bullet train, but if you head up onto Mount Fuji, or down into the Izu Hanto pensinsula, expect travel to take a whole lot longer. Without any major large cities to its name - Hamamatsu and Shizuoka being the busiest - its a chilled-out , inviting prefecture, well worthy of exploration. In Atami and Izu it also has some very fine accommodations.
Foodies Go Shizuoka: Hamamatsu consumes more eel than anywhere else in the country (Kyoto is #2; Nagoya #3). Sourced from Lake Hamanako the eel is served, super fresh, grilled as unagi no kabayaki. The general standard of quality all across the prefecture is high, but in particular in Hamamatsu seek out Atsumi in Naka Ward, Sumiyaki Unagi Kamo in Kita Ward, and Unagi Yaotoku Honten opposite the Hotel Crown Palais in downtown Hamamatsu.
Serious foodies will want to take the 30 minute-or-so bus ride from JR Shizuoka Station to Mariko-juku. This used to be station #20 on the old Tokaido post road, and is where you'll find Chojiya, 1596, the originator of tororojiru grated yam soup. The old thatched roof building is pretty much in the same shape as it was when Hiroshige painted it in 1833. It has its own small museum and gift shop.
Shizuoka is also a serious producer of hon wasabi 'real wasabi'. Japanese horseradish has been used here since the Nara Period (710 to 794 AD), and the pure waters draining from Mount Fuji create the perfect environment for its cultivation in the wild. Visit Wasabien Kadoya in Kamo-gun to see it grow.
The other great beneficiary of Shizuoka's pure waters and relatively mild, yet partially alpine climate is, of course, the green tea plant. Tea cultivation in the prefecture dates back centuries, and those fields of neatly arranged bushes each with their own ventilating fan that you see from the windows of a speeding bullet train are, naturally, tea. Of late, Shizuoka has moved to cultivate the organic brands Yabukita and Zairai, and is pushing to export more overseas. The classic traditional tea purveyors are Shizuoka city's Chikumeido (in business since 1781), Koyamaen Saho Gofukuhonten (since 1865), and Mishima's upstart Yamadaen (a mere 50 years old).
Down on the coastline in Yui district you'll find sakura-ebi shrimp at Sakuraebi Chaya and 'Sakura Ebi Museum' Sakuraebi-kan in Yui. In Atami, the seaside resort once graced by the presence of John Wayne, there are some lovely luxury ryokan: try the traditional Hiramatsu Resorts and Hotels or the highly modern Atami Kaihourou. In Kamo Kawazu on the Izu Hanto peninsula look for the Gyokuhokan or the old school Arai Ryokan in Izu city.
The Shizuoka Budget Gourmet Everyone loves the wafer-like sweet unagi pai ('Eel Pie'), created originally and still sold at at Shunkado in Hamakita ward in Hamamatsu. Abekawa-mochi is another favorite. The prefectures dark, flavorful oden hotchpotch is best at Odenya Aoba Yokocho Obachan (fun English on their website). Last but not least, tsuke Napolitan is some deranged combination of tsukemen ramen dipping noodles and tomatoes, but it does seem to be popular. Find it at Trattoria Kikuchi and other outlets in Fuji city.
The Ramen Professor Recommends: Menya Michino in Hamamatsu's Nishi ward is an import from Hokkaido, but none the worse for that. They do a nice line in ikuradon and other side dishes, as well as the tasty shoyu-base and karamiso spicy miso ramen. They open from 7.30 am for that breakfast noodle hit. Menya Ryuju in Hamamatsu's Higashi ward is very popular for its spicy maze soba style noodles. In Fujinomiya, check out the local favorite Hanashibakawa's 450-yen soy-base shoyu ramen. It's open 11am to 9pm, closed Thursdays.
FGL Favorite Tipple: Beer lovers heading to Shizuoka must check out the pioneering microbrewery Baird Beer, created by Bryan and Sayuri Baird. They led the way in Japanese craft beer 'revolution' that has now taken the country by storm. Visit either their taproom in Miyazu fish market, where it all started, or the brewery gardens at Shuzenji. Sake lovers check out Onikoroshi Wakatake, 'the demon Slayer' or Onna Nakase by Shimada city's Omuraya Shuzo. The ukiyo-e label on the latter is a gem.
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